The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is located in the back of the knee joint. It is one of four primary ligaments that hold the knee together and provide stability and flexibility. The PCL keeps the tibia from moving backward too far. It is stronger than the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and is injured less frequently.
A PCL tear is frequently referred to as a “dashboard injury” because a common cause of a PCL tear is a bent knee hitting a dashboard in a car accident or truck accident. It forces the shin backward, damaging the PCL and sometimes other ligaments in the knee.
PCL tears are divided into three grades:
- Grade 1 PCL Tear – the ligament is slightly stretched and mildly damaged, the knee is still stable
- Grade 2 PCL Tear – the ligament is stretched and loose, is partially torn or completely torn, no other ligament injury, the knee is somewhat unstable
- Grade 3 PCL Tear – the ligament is split into two pieces (a complete tear), additional ligament injuries, the knee is unstable
PCL Tear Treatment
A PCL Tear may be treated non-surgically or surgically, depending on whether there are additional injuries.
The non-surgical options include:
- The R.I.C.E. regimen of rest, ice, compression, and elevation is helpful immediately after a PCL injury.
- Bracing may be used to immobilize the knee and protect it from further damage.
- Physical therapy is recommended once the swelling has subsided. This will strengthen the leg muscles and restore function to the knee.
Surgery is recommended only for a complete PCL tear combined with additional injuries. Arthroscopic surgery is done to rebuild the ligament because the PCL is resistant to healing with suturing. The ligament will be replaced with tissue graft from another part of the body or a donor. A graft can take several months to heal.
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